A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in an artery in the lung. Once the artery is blocked oxygen levels in the blood drop, and blood pressure in the lungs rises. It is a life-threatening condition which is demonstrated by this case report from New York.
The patient was 42 years old and had a history of hypertension (high blood pressure) and asthma. In January of 2001 he submitted to knee surgery which was successful. However, two weeks after surgery he went to an emergency room with complaints of shortness of breath and a pulmonary embolism was suspected. The treating doctor ordered a CT of the chest and, after some delay, ordered the administration of Heparin (an anticoagulant). Unfortunately, the Heparin was not promptly given and the patient suffered a cardiac arrest from the pulmonary embolism and died. The suit against the ER physician was reportedly settled for $1.5 million.